Why don’t advertisers own NFL teams?


The answer is simple; because the NFL won’t allow it. That would mess with their whole business model. I was amongst the 100 million+ viewers that tuned into Super Bowl LI Sunday night and it got me thinking; why don’t advertisers own sports teams? I mean, really, why not? Think about it…

The Super Bowl is the one event that sports fans don’t mind the constant interruption by commercials, but what about all those other games? The commercials are a constant irritation, and guess what advertisers: Your money isn’t buying as many eyeballs as they did just last year. NFL Ratings dipped by about 8% this year, which is about the same percentage that NFL ad rates increased. Why is that? Because it’s live TV, one of the last bastions of commercial viability.

Forget about the NFL, because it will never happen. It would be letting the Genie out of the bottle. But what if advertisers got together and started their own sports league? What if the $500 million in Super Bowl ad time spent by corporations was instead spent on establishing a sports league where advertisers are the owners.

Last year at Sundance, Laura Henderson, the then global head of content and media monetization at Mondelez told BrandStorytelling.tv, “If we stay focused on that guiding light of creating content that’s good enough to make money, it is going to help us make sure we’re producing content that people want to watch.” Really? Well, what people really want to watch is grown men beating the crap out of each other on a 100-yard-long field, trying to move a ball from one end to the other. They don’t necessarily want to watch someone jump 25,000 feet from an airplane sans-parachute and (hopefully) land in a 100’ wide net. That show aired on Fox last summer and was called “Heaven Sent". It was funded and executive produced by Stride Gum, a Mondelez “Power Brand.” Did you see it? Probably not. It aired live on Fox, July 30, 2016 and attracted 1.4 million viewers, half of the time slot leader, America’s Got Talent with 2.8 million viewers that night.

Mondelez is not the only brand organization that wants to create content that makes money. Marriott International is marketing short films, Pepsi launched Creators League to “act like a Hollywood Studio” and of course, there is brand-turned-media poster-child, Red Bull.

David Beebe, VP Global Creative + Content Marketing for Marriott International told BrandStorytelling.tv last year, “We need to stop interrupting what people are interested in and become what they are interested in.” Hello! Football!

Play along with me here for a minute: How would a brand-owned sports league operate? Just like any other sports league, a group of advertisers would get together, make up the rules, fund the league, sell franchises, etc., etc. As a matter of fact, the NFL, on a corporate level considers itself a trade association and up until 2015 operated as a non-profit. Couldn’t a group of advertisers launch a trade association like the NFL and allow corporations to buy team franchises? Where would these teams be based? Nowhere. Everywhere. Brands are global, their fans are global. There would be no home fields, no home field advantage. Games could be played anywhere, like other sporting events, ie; Olympics, PGA Tournaments, Tennis Tournaments, Ski Racing, etc. Two teams converge on a city for a week. Big PR surrounds the event. They play on a neutral field in front of fans from all over. Sort of like SuperBowl but it happens all over the world every week. The League negotiates with venues and builds a schedule that pits teams in stadiums anywhere. Colleges and Universities would enjoy